Is the Gig Economy the Start of a New Industrial Revolution?

Maybe. Yes. Some would argue that the gig economy is a natural outcome to the work world of today. But perhaps the gig economy is the beginning of a new industrial revolution that will completely change the dynamic of work for the future, empowering America’s workforce.

What is the gig economy? Really this is a fancy phrase for independent contractors. Think individuals with specialized knowledge, skills and abilities, or “artisans” that engage with companies on a contractual basis for a short-term arrangement. In return, the company pays a pre-negotiated rate for a specific outcome. What makes the concept new-ish, is that companies connect with gig workers via the digital marketplace (i.e. websites or mobile apps). Indeed, a study by Intuit predicts that by 2020, upwards of 40% of the workforce will be independent contractors.

Th origins of the first Industrial Revolution were a combination of innovation (steam power), social change (end of feudalism, population shift from rural to urban centers), market (demand for mass production) changes and good ol’ fashion work ethic. These same forces are also contributing to the latest version of the industrial revolution.

Advances and innovation in tech and about every other industry there is have changed the talent needs of companies. Employers no longer seek brawn, they need brain. Knowledge workers are in demand. Employers do not have the time nor the tools and resources to train for these needs, thus they have to seek it out in an already pre-packaged human being who brings with them the knowledge and tools to complete the job. Companies also need bench strength, not full-time workers. They need to be able to call up their specialist when and how they need him or her. Gig workers fill just this need.

 

Social change, millennial and Gen Z grew up with information on demand, they did not have to seek it out, they look no further than their closest tech device. These generations of workers see no reason why work needs to be done in a certain location, at a certain time or in any particular way. Combine this total 180 view of the traditional American worker with deafening calls for benefits and rights that equalize the employer-employee relationship, such as paid family leave, paid sick leave, fair pay, etc… and you have a more empowered worker, a gig worker.

Empowered workers that hustle their asses off don’t need your company’s 9-5, they can leverage their specialized knowledge to negotiate their own terms and conditions under a contract. To some extent, these gig workers aren’t necessarily holding some specialized nuclear fission knowledge that only like .5% of the population has, gig workers are your drivers (Uber/Lyft) and your babysitters or dog walkers (Care.com).

Disruptive technology and the rise of the gig economy are already in play, viva la revolución.

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